President Morsi under Muslim Brotherhood siege
Egypt's new president needs to get out from under the Brotherhood's tutelage and take decisions that put Egypt first
Said Shehata , Sunday 15 Jul 2012
I mentioned in a previous article that the new president should distance himself from both the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). He should behave and be seen as the president of all Egyptians. It seems from his first executive decree to reinstate the dissolved People’s Assembly that he is very strongly attached to them.
It can be argued that members of the Brotherhood and the FJP represent the gatekeepers that deprive Morsi from taking others’ views into consideration. These gatekeepers could have negative consequences on this critical moment of Egypt's history.
In a recent interview with Saad El-Husseini, a leading member of the FJP who knows the president very well, he told me that Morsi should not break his links with the Brotherhood and FJP since he carries out their programme as their presidential candidate and the president.
But he added that Morsi should consult other political forces too. The problem lies in striking a balance between Islamists and others when taking decisions. It seems that Morsi has only one source of information when taking decisions.
It is argued that Morsi fell in a trap and was pressured by the Brotherhood to issue this decree. His decision came on Sunday after a meeting of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council held the night before.
The decree called for the withdrawal of Decree No. 350 ordering the dissolution of the People’s Assembly as of Friday, 15 July 2012. It called for the reinstatement of the elected assembly, calling on it to hold its meetings and exercise its powers as spelt out in Article 33 of last year's 30 March Constitutional Declaration.
In addition, it stated the need to hold fresh parliamentary elections within 60 days of approval of a new constitution via popular referendum and the finalisation of a new People’s Assembly Law.
The decree came as a surprise because Morsi had announced his respect for the High Constitutional Court (HCC) verdict dissolving the People’s Assembly two days before last month's presidential runoff. What's more, it was expected that he would not start a confrontation in his first year as president with either the military council or judiciary, with a view towards consolidating his powers as president.
The move was criticised by the judiciary, most non-Islamist members of parliament's lower house, non-Islamist political forces and some ordinary people. Egypt’s Judges' Club on Monday night gave President Morsi 36 hours to revoke his decision to reinstate the People’s Assembly that the HCC had ruled unconstitutional.
Judge Ahmed El-Zend, head of the Judges' Club, unleashed a fierce attack against Morsi, saying: "I would like to tell Morsi that he is surrounded by people who tricked him, and will make him fall into a trap."
The HCC, along with the military council, held an emergency meeting. The HCC challenged the presidential decree by stating its previous decision dissolving the People’s Assembly was "binding on all institutions in Egypt." Then it escalated the pressure on Morsi by suspending his executive decree.
This chapter of the struggle between Morsi, the HCC and the military council ended – at least for now – when Morsi accepted the HCC verdict. But the struggle has now manifested itself outside the walls of these institutions, in Tahrir Square and Nasr City, between Islamists who support Morsi and those that stand against them.
Egypt still appears to be divided between these two camps – and Morsi should not aggravate this division.
It should be noted that Morsi has yet to name a prime minister or any vice presidents. This failure can partly explain his decree. He is under siege by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is surrounded by them and consults with them since he has no presidential institution.
Nor does he have any non-Islamist advisers to mitigate the tremendous Islamist influence on him. He was ill-advised to issue this decree. He lacks sound political experience that might have enabled him not to take this decision.
He should get out from under the Brotherhood's tutelage and take decisions that put Egypt first. The appointment of a new government and vice presidents might help avoid such situations in the future.